If you’ve always dreamed of seeing the northern lights, now is the time to get planning the ultimate adventure to see the aurora dance over the mountains.
With international travel very much back on the cards, and many of us planning on skiing a Canadian resort this winter, it’s all too easy to tack on a northern lights trip to the beginning or end of your holiday – without spending a fortune along the way.
Read on for our guide on seeing the best of the lights, and ensuring you get the most bucket-list-worthy experiences along the way.
Where to go to see the northern lights
Yellowknife is located in the Northwest Territories of Canada, and is known as the Aurora Capital of the World.
It’s all thanks to a combination of subarctic crystal-clear nights, ultra-low humidity, flat land, low levels of light pollution and its perfect location beneath the earth’s band of maximal aurora activity – known as the ‘auroral oval’.
It’s also just a 2-hour direct flight from Vancouver, Edmonton or Calgary, so it’s the perfect add-on for your skiing adventures throughout British Columbia (home to resorts such as Whistler, Big White, Sun Peaks and SilverStar) or Alberta (home to Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise Ski Resort and Mt. Norquay).
If looking for airlines, Air Canada flies directly from Vancouver to Yellowknife and Westjet flies directly from Calgary or Edmonton. You can book when you sort your international airfares from Australia; Air Canada flies direct from Sydney to Vancouver with connections onto Yellowknife, and Qantas fly direct from Australia to Vancouver with Westjet aligned as their domestic partner.
And while Yellowknife is in the sub-arctic, it’s hardly a sleepy city. This town has all the amenities of a thriving tourist township with many shops, restaurants and local pubs to choose from.
For hotels, popular downtown choices include The Explorer Hotel, or Capital Suites for
When to go to see the Aurora
The winter season for viewing the northern lights times perfectly with the Canadian ski season – which is perfect for skiers and snowboarders.
Go anytime from late December through to March, and plan to stay a minimum of four nights for your best chances of witnessing the natural phenomenon to beat them all.
There are a huge range of viewing options available throughout the season, with everything from fly-in, fly-out wilderness lodges to Yellowknife-based viewing stations with Indigenous owned heated teepee experiences.
Dine under the lights at Aurora Village
Located 20 minutes from downtown Yellowknife core, Aurora Village is a well-known viewing location in Yellowknife, and owned and operated by First Nations people of the area.
You can relax in one of the multiple heated teepees while you wait for the aurora, warming your hands by the fire and sipping hot chocolate, tea and coffee; or enjoy dinner and drinks in the licensed dining hall.
Or, better yet, book yourself a VITeepee Dining Experience for a private three course meal in a teepee; or lock in a heated, 360-degree revolving swivel chair to watch the Aurora. They’ve truly thought of everything here.
You can even book tours such as dog sledding, showshoeing, ice fishing, dream catcher lessons – and the rental gear that you’ll need to keep warm and toasty, including rental tripods for the photographers out there.
The team at Aurora Village will collect you from your hotel in downtown Yellowknife and deliver you back in the early hours of the morning after your northern lights viewing experience.
Stay at Blachford Lake Lodge
Looking for all the bells and whistles to go with your aurora experience?
Jump on a 25-minute bush plan flight to get from Yellowknife to the Blachford Lake Lodge, where you can bed down in the main lodge, or opt for one of the individual rustic cabins.
It’s a premium experience with an onsite chef who cooks three gourmet meals per day included in the packages, and amazing little experiences like “tire sur la neige” – local maple syrup served on fresh snow beside the lodge.
There’s also plenty to do onsite – cross country skiing, fat tire biking and snowshoeing. The lodge keeps a collection of skis and boots, skates, and snowshoes for you to travel on your own, or with a guide, at your own pace, looking out for foxes, ptarmigan, ravens, lynx, rabbits and more.
By night, enjoy the northern lights from the hot tub or the huge Aurora-watching windows in the main lodge.
Need to know
While you have the best chance of seeing the aurora in Yellowknife, it’s also a natural phenomenon – meaning that it’s not guaranteed. That’s why you may need a few nights locked in for a viewing experience, and on those nights, you may need to wait for the lights to come out and dance.
The aurora may go all night, although it’s usually at its best from 11pm to 1am, so you may like to rest up during the day before heading out into the evening to spot them.
And it’s worth noting that your regular ski gear won’t cut it. Tour operators rent gear that’s better-suited for the extreme cold, including jackets, winter pants, extreme winter boots and elbow-length gloves, keeping you well-protected from the elements.
Ready to book? Find out more by clicking here, or call your favourite ski specialist travel agent Skimax Holidays on 02 9267 1655 or MySnowHolidays on 1300 697 669.